Chapter II Fundamental Rights, Freedoms and Duties

§ 8. Every child of whose parents one is an Estonian citizen has the right to Estonian citizenship by birth.

Everyone who has lost his or her Estonian citizenship as a minor has the right to its restoration.

No one shall be deprived of Estonian citizenship acquired by birth.

No one shall be deprived of Estonian citizenship because of his or her beliefs.

The conditions and procedures for the acquisition, loss and restoration of Estonian citizenship shall be provided by the Citizenship Act.

§ 9. The rights, freedoms and duties of each and every person, as set out in the Constitution, shall be equal for Estonian citizens and for citizens of foreign states and stateless persons in Estonia.

The rights, freedoms and duties set out in the Constitution shall extend to legal persons in so far as this is in accordance with the general aims of legal persons and with the nature of such rights, freedoms and duties.

§ 10. The rights, freedoms and duties set out in this Chapter shall not preclude other rights, freedoms and duties which arise from the spirit of the Constitution or are in accordance therewith, and conform to the principles of human dignity and of a state based on social justice, democracy, and the rule of law.

§ 11. Rights and freedoms may be restricted only in accordance with the Constitution. Such restrictions must be necessary in a democratic society and shall not distort the nature of the rights and freedoms restricted.

§ 12. Everyone is equal before the law. No one shall be discriminated against on the basis of nationality, race, colour, sex, language, origin, religion, political or other opinion, property or social status, or on other grounds.

The incitement of national, racial, religious or political hatred, violence or discrimination shall, by law, be prohibited and punishable. The incitement of hatred, violence or discrimination between social strata shall, by law, also be prohibited and punishable.

§ 13. Everyone has the right to the protection of the state and of the law. The Estonian state shall also protect its citizens abroad.

The law shall protect everyone from the arbitrary exercise of state authority.

§ 14. The guarantee of rights and freedoms is the duty of the legislative, executive and judicial powers, and of local governments.

§ 15. Everyone whose rights and freedoms are violated has the right of recourse to the courts. Everyone has the r-ght, while his or her case is before the court, to petition for any relevant law, other legislation or procedure to be declared unconstitutional.

The courts shall observe the Constitution and shall declare unconstitutional any law, other legislation or procedure which violates the rights and freedoms provided by the Constitution or which is otherwise in conflict with the Constitution.

§ 16. Everyone has the right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life.

§ 17. No one’s honour or good name shall be defamed.

§ 18. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel or degrading treatment or punishment.

No one shall be subjected to medical or scientific experiments against his or her free will.

§ 19. Everyone has the right to free self-realisation.

Everyone shall honour and consider the rights and freedoms of others, and shall observe the law, in exercising his or her rights and freedoms and in fulfilling his or her duties.

§ 20. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.

No one shall be deprived of his or her liberty except in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law:

1) to execute a conviction or detention ordered by a court;
2) in the case of non-compliance with a court order or to ensure the fulfilment of a duty provided by law;
3) to prevent a criminal or administrative offence, to bring a person who is reasonably suspected of such an offence before a competent state authority, or to prevent his or her escape;
4) to place a minor under disciplinary supervision or to bring him or her before a competent state authority to determine whether to impose such supervision;
5) to detain a person suffering from an infectious disease, a person of unsound mind, an alcoholic or a drug addict, if such person is dangerous to himself or herself or to others;
6) to prevent illegal settlement in Estonia and to expel a person from Estonia or to extradite a person to a foreign state.

No one shall be deprived of his or her liberty merely on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation.

§ 21. Everyone who is deprived of his or her liberty shall be informed promptly, in a language and manner which he or she understands, of the reason for the deprivation of liberty and of his or her rights, and shall be given the opportunity to notify those closest to him or her. A person suspected of a criminal offence shall also be promptly given the opportunity to choose and confer with counsel. The right of a person suspected of a criminal offence to notify those closest to him or her of the deprivation of liberty may be restricted only in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law to prevent a criminal offence or in the interests of ascertaining the truth in a criminal proceeding.

No one shall be held in custody for more than forty-eight hours without the specific authorisation of a court. The decision of the court shall be promptly communicated to the person in custody in a language and manner which he or she understands.

§ 22. No one shall be presumed guilty of a criminal offence until a conviction by a court against him or her enters into force.

No one has the duty to prove his or her innocence in a criminal proceeding.

No one shall be compelled to testify against himself or herself, or against those closest to him or her.

§ 23. No one shall be convicted of an act which did not constitute a criminal offence under the law in force at the time the act was committed.

No one shall have a more severe punishment imposed on him or her than the one that was applicable at the time the offence was committed. If, subsequent to the commission of an offence, the law provides for a lesser punishment, the lesser punishment shall apply.

No one shall be tried or punished again for an act of which he or she has been finally convicted or acquitted pursuant to law.

§ 24. No one shall be transferred, against his or her free will, from the jurisdiction of the court specified by law to the jurisdiction of another court.

Everyone has the right to be tried in his or her presence.

Court sessions shall be public. A court may, in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law, declare that a session or a part thereof be held in camera to protect a state or business secret, morals or the private and family life of a person, or where the interests of a minor, a victim, or justice so require.

Judgment shall be pronounced publicly, except in cases where the interests of a minor, a spouse, or a victim require otherwise.

Everyone has the right of appeal to a higher court against the judgment in his or her case pursuant to procedure provided by law.

§ 25. Everyone has the right to compensation for moral and material damage caused by the unlawful action of any person.

§ 26. Everyone has the right to the inviolability of private and family life. State agencies, local governments, and their officials shall not interfere with the private or family life of any person, except in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law to protect health, morals, public order, or the rights and freedoms of others, to prevent a criminal offence, or to apprehend a criminal offender.

§ 27. The family, being fundamental to the preservation and growth of the nation and as the basis of society shall be protected by the state.

Spouses have equal rights.

Parents have the right and the duty to raise and care for their children.

The protection of parents and children shall be provided by law.

The family has a duty to care for its needy members.

§ 28. Everyone has the right to the protection of health.

An Estonian citizen has the right to state assistance in the case of old age, inability to work, loss of a provider, or need. The categories and extent of assistance, and the conditions and procedure for the receipt of assistance shall be provided by law. Citizens of foreign states and stateless persons who are in Estonia have this right equally with Estonian citizens, unless otherwise provided by law.

The state shall promote voluntary and local government welfare services.

Families with many children and persons with disabilities shall be under the special care of the state and local governments.

§ 29. An Estonian citizen has the right to freely choose his or her sphere of activity, profession and place of work. Conditions and procedure for the exercise of this right may be provided by law. Citizens of foreign states and stateless persons who are in Estonia have this right equally with Estonian citizens, unless otherwise provided by law.

No one shall be compelled to perform work or service against his or her free will, except service in the Defence Forces or alternative service, work to prevent the spread of an infectious disease, work in the case of a natural disaster or a catastrophe, and work which a convict must perform on the basis of and pursuant to procedure established by law.

The state shall organise vocational training and shall assist persons who seek employment in finding work.

Working conditions shall be under state supervision.

Everyone may freely belong to associations and unions of employees and employers. Associations and unions of employees and employers may uphold their rights and lawful interests by means which are not prohibited by law. The conditions and procedure for the exercise of the right to strike shall be provided by law.

The procedure for the settlement of labour disputes shall be provided by law.

§ 30. Offices in state agencies and local governments shall be filled by Estonian citizens, on the basis of and pursuant to procedure established by law. These offices may, as an exception, be filled by citizens of foreign states or stateless persons, in accordance with law.

The right of some categories of civil servants to engage in enterprise and to form commercial associations (§ 31), as well as the right to belong to political parties and some types of non-profit associations (§ 48) may be restricted by law.

§ 31. Estonian citizens have the right to engage in enterprise and to form commercial undertakings and unions. Conditions and procedure for the exercise of this right may be provided by law. Citizens of foreign states and stateless persons who are in Estonia have this right equally with Estonian citizens, unless otherwise provided by law.

§ 32. The property of every person is inviolable and equally protected. Property may be expropriated without the consent of the owner only in the public interest, in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law, and for fair and immediate compensation. Everyone whose property is expropriated without his or her consent has the right of recourse to the courts and to contest the expropriation, the compensation, or the amount thereof.

Everyone has the right to freely possess, use, and dispose of his or her property. Restrictions shall be provided by law. Property shall not be used contrary to the public interest.

Classes of property which, in the public interest, may be acquired in Estonia only by Estonian citizens, some categories of legal persons, local governments, or the Estonian state may be provided by law.

The right of succession is guaranteed.

§ 33. The home is inviolable. No one’s dwelling, real or personal property under his or her control, or place of employment shall be forcibly entered or searched, except in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law, to protect public order, health or the rights and freedoms of others, to prevent a criminal offence, to apprehend a criminal offender, or to ascertain the truth in a criminal proceeding.

§ 34. Everyone who is legally in Estonia has the right to freedom of movement and to choice of residence. The right to freedom of movement may be restricted in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law to protect the rights and freedoms of others, in the interests of national defence, in the case of a natural disaster or a catastrophe, to prevent the spread of an infectious disease, to protect the natural environment, to prevent the leaving of a minor or a person of unsound mind without supervision, or to ensure the administration of a criminal proceeding.

§ 35. Everyone has the right to leave Estonia. This right may be restricted in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law to ensure the administration of court or pre-trial procedure, or to execute a court judgment.

§ 36. No Estonian citizen shall be expelled from Estonia or prevented from settling in Estonia.

No Estonian citizen shall be extradited to a foreign state, except under conditions prescribed by an international treaty and pursuant to procedure provided by such treaty and by law. Extradition shall be decided by the Government of the Republic. Everyone who is under an extradition order has the right to contest the extradition in an Estonian court.

Every Estonian has the right to settle in Estonia.

§ 37. Everyone has the right to education. Education is compulsory for school-age children to the extent specified by law, and shall be free of charge in state and local government general education schools.

In order to make education accessible, the state and local governments shall maintain the requisite number of educational institutions. Other educational institutions, including private schools, may also be established and maintained pursuant to law.

Parents shall have the final decision in the choice of education for their children.

Everyone has the right to receive instruction in Estonian. The language of instruction in national minority educational institutions shall be chosen by the educational institution.

The provision of education shall be supervised by the state.

§ 38. Science and art and their instruction are free.

Universities and research institutions are autonomous within the restrictions prescribed by law.

§ 39. An author has the inalienable r-ght to his or her work. The state shall protect the rights of the author.

§ 40. Everyone has freedom of conscience, religion and thought.

Everyone may freely belong to churches and religious societies. There is no state church.

Everyone has the freedom to exercise his or her religion, both alone and in community with others, in public or in private, unless this is detrimental to public order, health or morals.

§ 41. Everyone has the right to remain faithful to his or her opinions and beliefs. No one shall be compelled to change them.

Beliefs shall not excuse a violation of the law.

No one shall be held legally responsible because of his or her beliefs.

§ 42. State agencies, local governments, and their officials shall not gather or store information about the beliefs of an Estonian citizen against the citizen’s free will.

§ 43. Everyone has the right to confidentiality of messages sent or received by him or her by post, telegraph, telephone or other commonly used means. Exceptions may be made by court authorisation to prevent a criminal offence, or to ascertain the truth in a criminal proceeding, in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law.

§ 44. Everyone has the right to freely obtain information disseminated for public use.

All state agencies, local governments, and their officials have a duty to provide information about their activities, pursuant to procedure provided by law, to an Estonian citizen at his or her request, except information the disclosure of which is prohibited by law, and information intended exclusively for internal use.

An Estonian citizen has the right to access information about himself or herself held in state agencies and local governments and in state and local government archives, pursuant to procedure provided by law. This right may be restricted pursuant to law to protect the rights and freedoms of others or the confidentiality of a child’s parentage, and in the interests of preventing a criminal offence, apprehending a criminal offender, or ascertaining the truth in a criminal proceeding.

Citizens of foreign states and stateless persons who are in Estonia have the rights specified in paragraphs two and three of this section equally with Estonian citizens, unless otherwise provided by law.

§ 45. Everyone has the right to freely disseminate ideas, opinions, beliefs and other information by word, print, picture or other means. This right may be restricted by law to protect public order, morals, and the rights and freedoms, health, honour and good name of others. This right may also be restricted by law for state and local government civil servants, to protect a state or business secret or information received in confidence, which has become known to them by reason of their office, and the family and private life of others, as well as in the interests of justice.

There is no censorship.

§ 46. Everyone has the right to address state agencies, local governments, and their officials with memoranda and petitions. The procedure for responding shall be provided by law.

§ 47. Everyone has the right, without prior permission, to assemble peacefully and to conduct meetings. This right may be restricted in the cases and pursuant to procedure provided by law to ensure national security, public order, morals, traffic safety, and the safety of participants in a meeting, or to prevent the spread of an infectious disease.

§ 48. Everyone has the right to form non-profit undertakings and unions. Only Estonian citizens may belong to political parties.

The establishment of organisations and unions which possess weapons, are militarily organised or perform military exercises requires prior permission, for which the conditions and procedure of issuance shall be provided by law.

Organisations, unions, and political parties whose aims or activities are directed at changing the constitutional order of Estonia by force, or are otherwise in conflict with the law providing for criminal responsibility, are prohibited.

Only a court may terminate or suspend the activities of, or fine, an organisation, union or political party, for a violation of the law.

§ 49. Everyone has the right to preserve his or her national identity.

§ 50. National minorities have the right, in the interests of national culture, to establish self-governing agencies under conditions and pursuant to procedure provided by the National Minorities Cultural Autonomy Act.

§ 51. Everyone has the right to address state agencies, local governments, and their officials in Estonian and to receive responses in Estonian.

In localities where at least one-half of the permanent residents belong to a national minority, everyone has the right to also receive responses from state agencies, local governments, and their officials in the language of the national minority.

§ 52. The official language of state agencies and local governments shall be Estonian.

In localities where the language of the majority of the residents is not Estonian, local governments may, to the extent and pursuant to procedure provided by law, use the language of the majority of the permanent residents of the locality as an internal working language.

The use of foreign languages, including the languages of national minorities, in state agencies and in court and pre-trial procedure shall be provided by law.

§ 53. Everyone has a duty to preserve the human and natural environment and to compensate for damage caused to the environment by him or her. The procedure for compensation shall be provided by law.

§ 54. An Estonian citizen has a duty to be loyal to the constitutional order and to defend the independence of Estonia.

If no other means are available, every Estonian citizen has the right to initiate resistance against a forcible change of the constitutional order.

§ 55. constitutional order of Estonia.

Additional information: | Compiled by: State Gazette